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12 January 2018

Christianity is a verifiable faith. It rests not simply on philosophical ideas or on alleged events located so far in the past that no evidence, either way, can be found. On the contrary, we can read accounts of Jesus’ life that were written astonishingly close to their happening, and we can go where Jesus went.

If you are ever in Capernaum, Galilee and you go to the old village you will be in for a shock. In, or more accurately, over, some of the diggings something that looks like a spaceship seems to hover. The ‘spaceship’ is, in fact, an octagonal church and in its centre, before the altar, a wide space has been cut allowing worshippers to look down through where roofs once were and into the house of Peter. You can see where Jesus healed Peter’s mother in law and somewhere around there, a group of very determined Jews broke through the roof of the house where Jesus was staying. Concentration during mass is easier as you hover a few meters above the site of two of Jesus miracles.

Nevertheless, without faith, being there has no meaning. Thousands visit the church each year. I was there not with pilgrims but a scholarship group of teachers. Some left the church their faith deepened, some were thoughtful, and others’ hostility to Jesus remained.

Faith is something that the paralysed man’s companions certainly possessed. Their faith was such that they risked, life, limb, and legal consequences to get their friend to Jesus. The passage moves on to a confrontation between Jesus and some of the Scribes present. All saw the miracle; some glorified God while for others Jesus’ claim to be able to forgive sin marked the beginning of a war that was to run all the way to Calvary and beyond.

If you go to mass today, you are in fact doing better than visiting the Church of St Peter in Capernaum. At the consecration, we are brought into the presence of Christ at the Eternal Supper. Time falls away; it is simply Jesus, a few others and you. Listen, see, taste. Jesus was, is and will always be. And you are one of His witnesses.

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